| Tim Rollins is primarily known as Tim Rollins + K.O.S.
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|A conceptual artist and art teacher, who began working with learning
disabled, often emotionally handicapped students in the early 1980s,
Tim Rollins kept working with them and now the group is called Tim
Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). Typically they make works
based on classical literature such as the Bible, Prometheus Bound, The Red Badge of Courage, Alice in Wonderland and Moby Dick. |
He invites young people from all over the world to make etchings and
woodcuts of these and other subjects, and the result is a combination
of popular and street culture, innocence and sophistication, violence
and peace. Sometimes a group with Rollins goes out to create
'under cover' on the streets of New York.
The method is to read a book and then take it apart, both physically
and intellectually. As Rollins reads, the kids draw, coming up
with individual interpretations. Then as a group, they unify by
distilling the images and deciding which ones are the most truthful,
the most effective. Then they put them on large grid pages,
results that Rollins refers to "ideological battlescenes".
Rollins (born 1955) grew up as a poor kid in rural Maine, and was the first member
of his family to attend college. He graduated from the University
of Maine and then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York in
1980 and the New York University School of Art Education. In
those days he was enamored with Russian Constructivists and "how they
developed forms to serve revolutionary politics---abstract designs that
projected enthusiasm, progress, affirmation, even joy...."
(Deicher). That same year he and a group including Nancy Spero,
Joseph Kosuth, Leon Golub, Lucy Lippard and Carl Andre founded the
Group Material to maintain exhibition space for their works that
addressed social themes and the way that democracy should
function. At the same time, he was teaching in a citywide
program, "Learning to Read Though the Arts", and an exhibition resulted
at the Group Material Gallery and got publicity in the Village Voice.
In 1982, Tim Rollins became a full-time art teacher for special-needs
students in the South Bronx, and he started an after school program
that led to K.O.S. A goal for him was to rectify the breach
between the kids' artistic talents and their reading abilities.
It was assumed they could not read. However, he launched them
into 'great' literature and fed their fascination with rebellion by
letting them deconstruct the work. By 1985, K.O.S. had its first
exhibition with the stipulation the work had to be beautiful because
they lived in such ugly surroundings. Two years later, the
program expanded to kids outside the Bronx; solo exhibitions were held
in Derry, Northern Ireland and the Dia Center for the Arts. And
from that time, K.O.S. has been an "opening up of culture". (Deitcher)
David Deitcher, "Tim Rollins talks to David Deitcher", ArtForum, April 2003,
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